A Trinity academic, Professor Raj Chari, has compiled a report commending the government’s performance in transparency matters. The report praises the introduction of politics as a leaving cert subject and the implementation of protections for whistleblowers. Specifically, the report concerns the implementation of Ireland’s National Action Plan (NAP) on open government and transparency, which was produced in collaboration with the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Though not without its criticism, the report overall commends the current government’s commitment to genuine ethical reform both in the public and private sphere.
In his report, Chari identifies the recent introduction of the Protected Disclosures Act as a particularly positive move towards guaranteeing better protection for whistleblowers. Chari describes the act, which protects whistleblowers in both the private and public sector from professional sanction of any kind, as the “most robust” of its kind in Europe. Minister Howlin, who commissioned the NAP, is quoted in the report as suggesting that this legislation will change the “culture” of Irish workers’ attitudes to the climate of transparency and workplace ethics.
Education reforms also receive close attention in Professor Chari’s report. As an initiative to encourage political debate, the forthcoming introduction of a “Politics and Civic Society” subject for the leaving certificate is a key section of the National Action Plan. Chari predicts the impact of the measures on student engagement with politics will only be moderate. However he also suggests that the module may provide students with the tools and jargon required to analyse and better connect with political discourse, particularly at election time.
Chari has, however, has also made some criticisms of the process in his report. He notes the reservations of some civic society groups about the Dublin-centric nature of the NAP’s consultation phase. Much of the advice sought by the government was drawn from sources based in the capital, with relatively little nationwide outreach.
The OGP, who commissioned Chari’s report, describes itself as a voluntary and multilateral organisation which aims to promote transparency in governance. Countries engaging with the OGP are supposed to follow a process of consultation during the development and implementation of their OGP action plan. Ireland’s first draft NAP was published in May 2014. The amount of the budget dedicated to the OGP in Ireland is estimated to be €50,000.
The report is currently accepting contributions and comments on its website. These will be published alongside the report following the closure of this feedback stage on the 16th of February. Chari says that it would be good to get the input of Trinity College students, saying that it is a chance to have their voices heard at a national level, and contribute to the policy discussion in Ireland.